Horizon: Zero Dawn probably won’t be the last former PlayStation exclusive to make the jump to PC. In its 2020 corporate report published late last week, Sony says that it “will explore expanding our 1st party titles to the PC platform, in order to promote further growth in our profitability.”
The “explore” wording there is a little bit couched, suggesting that Sony still hasn’t completely made up its mind on the specifics of further PC game publishing. And the report doesn’t go into detail on which games, if any, Sony considers ripe for porting.
And even if Sony does continue publishing on PC, we shouldn’t necessarily expect major PlayStation titles to hit Steam on the same day as the coming PS5. In Horizon‘s case, Sony waited a full 1,256 days between the game’s February, 2017 launch on PS4 and its PC launch earlier this month.
Cracks in the walled garden
All that said, explicitly mentioning the potential for PC ports in its annual report is the latest sign that Sony’s continues to slowly loosen its tight, walled-garden approach to game hardware and software. In 2017, for instance, Sony expanded its PlayStation Now streaming service to work on Windows PCs as well as PS4 hardware. That service now has 2.2 million regular subscribers, Sony says, up significantly from the 1 million subscribers claimed last November.
In 2018, Sony finally opened PS4 titles to cross-platform online play with other consoles after years of public reluctance on that score. Then, earlier this year, Sony said MLB: The Show will come to non-PlayStation consoles as soon as 2021, after decades of PlayStation exclusivity.
It all speaks to a company that’s more aware that “competition from online PC games and players from other industries is expected to continue to intensify,” as it says in its annual report. Even as Sony pushes hard for the exclusive “speed, haptics, and sound” improvements of the upcoming PlayStation 5 this year, it is hedging its bets somewhat with support for non-Sony hardware as well.
Elsewhere in the annual report, Sony said it will “continue to invest in, or acquire, firms with abundant creativity and cutting-edge technologies to build up Worldwide Studios.” That follows on last year’s acquisition of Spider-Man developer Insomniac, the 14th distinct studio in Sony’s portfolio.
The PlayStation 4 has now sold 112.1 million units worldwide, Sony says, with 45 million users paying for a regular subscription to PlayStation Plus. Revenues and operating income for the Game & Network Services division were down for the 2019 fiscal year, though, due to a “decrease in game software sales [and the] negative impact of foreign exchange rates,” Sony said.
PC Shaders go brrrrr by u/chrysillium in thelastofus
Naughty Dog says it is “actively investigating multiple issues” as complaints about graphical and performance issues continue to flood in following the PC release of The Last of Us: Part 1 on Tuesday.
The thousands of reviews on Steam—67 percent of which are negative, as of this writing—tell the tale of players facing massive problems simply playing the game they purchased. There is an overwhelming number of complaints about everything from frequent crashes and extreme loading times to “severe stuttering” during basic gameplay. Even with some positive reviews on the site supportive of the game’s underlying console versions, others complain that the PC edition is currently “stuttering, crashing, and unplayable.”
Even Joel can’t believe the amount of loading time.. by u/RuneLFox in thelastofus
Many user complaints seem to focus on the extreme amount of time needed for the game to build its graphical shader cache the first time it’s loaded. One Reddit user shared a timelapse of a 70-minute wait for those shaders to compile. Others point out that this extended loading time is particularly significant given Steam’s two-hour playtime window for requesting a no-questions-asked refund.
The Last of Us Part I PC players: we’ve heard your concerns, and our team is actively investigating multiple issues you’ve reported.
We will continue to update you, but our team is prioritizing updates and will address issues in upcoming patches.
A “known issues” update on the Naughty Dog support site acknowledges issues with shader loading taking “longer than expected” and stresses that “performance and stability is degraded” while those shaders are loading. The support page also warns players of a “potential memory leak” (which some forum-goers are attributing to a bugged decompression library) and that “older graphics drivers” can also contribute to “instability or graphical problems.”
“The Last of Us Part I PC players: we’ve heard your concerns, and our team is actively investigating multiple issues you’ve reported,” Naughty Dog wrote in a tweet Tuesday evening. “We will continue to update you, but our team is prioritizing updates and will address issues in upcoming patches.”
Joel has seen better days… by u/can_i_see_your_cat in thelastofus
In a blog post accompanying the game’s PC launch Tuesday, Naughty Dog’s Christian Gyrling noted that moving the PS5-optimized Last of Us engine to PC involved “a large amount of tuning, tweaking, and even re-thinking, especially when it came to how we utilized the GPU.” The team was focused on “maintaining the equally high-quality bar across both PC and PlayStation consoles,” Gyrling wrote.
Some eagle-eyed fans started expressing worries about this latest PlayStation-to-PC port earlier this month when an Iron Galaxy logo appeared at the bottom of a PC spec sheet posted on the Naughty Dog blog. Iron Galaxy, you may remember, was responsible for the “seriously broken” port of Batman: Arkham Knight in 2015, which was eventually pulled from Steam amid widespread demands for refunds. Four months later, after multiple patches, players were still reporting massive resource allocation issues with that version of the game.
Iron Galaxy’s apparent involvement is especially notable given Sony’s 2021 purchase of Nixxes, which has been responsible for better-received PC ports of PlayStation titles like Spider-Man and Horizon: Zero Dawn. Then again, Iron Galaxy did work on the PC release of Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection, which Digital Foundry called an “accomplished but unambitious port” upon its release last year.
TLOUP1, Anyone else having glitches like these on PC? by u/official_tommy_boi in thelastofus
Ironically enough, this week’s PC release came after a 25-day delay that Naughty Dog said at the time was to ensure the “PC debut is in the best shape possible.” Who knows how many more days players will have to wait until the game has truly reached that “best shape possible” status.
We’re all familiar with the elements of the periodic table, but have you ever wondered what hydrogen or zinc, for example, might sound like? W. Walker Smith, now a graduate student at Indiana University, combined his twin passions of chemistry and music to create what he calls a new audio-visual instrument to communicate the concepts of chemical spectroscopy.
Smith presented his data sonification project—which essentially transforms the visible spectra of the elements of the periodic table into sound—at a meeting of the American Chemical Society being held this week in Indianapolis, Indiana. Smith even featured audio clips of some of the elements, along with “compositions” featuring larger molecules, during a performance of his “The Sound of Molecules” show.
As an undergraduate, “I [earned] a dual degree in music composition and chemistry, so I was always looking for a way to turn my chemistry research into music,” Smith said during a media briefing. “Eventually, I stumbled across the visible spectra of the elements and I was overwhelmed by how beautiful and different they all look. I thought it would be really cool to turn those visible spectra, those beautiful images, into sound.”
Data sonification is not a new concept. For instance, in 2018, scientists transformed NASA’s image of Mars rover Opportunity on its 5,000th sunrise on Mars into music. The particle physics data used to discover the Higgs boson, the echoes of a black hole as it devoured a star, and magnetometer readings from the Voyager mission have also been transposed into music. And several years ago, a project called LHCSound built a library of the “sounds” of a top quark jet and the Higgs boson, among others. The project hoped to develop sonification as a technique for analyzing the data from particle collisions so that physicists could “detect” subatomic particles by ear.
Markus Buehler’s MIT lab famously mapped the molecular structure of proteins in spider silk threads onto musical theory to produce the “sound” of silk in hopes of establishing a radical new way to create designer proteins. The hierarchical elements of music composition (pitch, range, dynamics, tempo) are analogous to the hierarchical elements of protein structure. The lab even devised a way for humans to “enter” a 3D spider web and explore its structure both visually and aurally via a virtual reality setup. The ultimate aim is to learn to create similar synthetic spiderwebs and other structures that mimic the spider’s process.
Several years later, Buehler’s lab came up with an even more advanced system of making music out of a protein structure by computing the unique fingerprints of all the different secondary structures of proteins to make them audible via transposition—and then converting it back to create novel proteins never before seen in nature. The team also developed a free Android app called the Amino Acid Synthesizer so users could create their own protein “compositions” from the sounds of amino acids.
So Smith is in good company with his interactive periodic table project. All the elements release distinct wavelengths of light, depending on their electron energy levels, when stimulated by electricity or heat, and those chemical “fingerprints” make up the visible spectra at the heart of chemical spectroscopy. Smith translated those different frequencies of light into different pitches or musical notes using an instrument called the Light Soundinator 3000, scaling down those frequencies to be within the range of human hearing. He professed amazement at the sheer variety of sounds.
“Red light has the lowest frequency in the visible range, so it sounds like a lower musical pitch than violet,” said Smith, demonstrating on a toy color-coded xylophone. “If we move from red all the way up to violet, the frequency of the light keeps getting higher, and so does the frequency of the sound. Violet is almost double the frequency of red light, so it actually sounds close to a musical octave.” And while simpler spectra like hydrogen and helium, which only have a few lines in their spectra, sound like “vaguely musical” chords, elements with more complex spectra consisting of thousands of lines are dense and noisy, often sounding like “a cheesy horror movie effect,” according to Smith.
His favorites: helium and zinc. “If you listen to the frequencies [of helium] one by one instead of all at once, you get an interesting scale pattern that I have used to make a couple of compositions, including a ‘helium dance party,'” said Smith. As for zinc, “The first row of transition metals have very complex, dense grating sounds. But zinc, for whatever reason, despite having a large number of frequencies, sounds like an angelic vocalist singing with vibrato.”
Smith is currently collaborating with the Wonder Lab Museum in Bloomington, Indiana, to develop a museum exhibit that would enable visitors to interact with the periodic table, listen to the laments, and make their own musical compositions from the various sounds. “The main thing I want to [convey] is that science and the arts aren’t so different after all,” he said. “Combining them can lead to new research questions, but also new ways to communicate and reach larger audiences.”
“I didn’t know what car Mirage was going to be at first,” said Steven Caple Jr., director of Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. “Where I’m from, in Cleveland, Ohio, I’d never even been in a Porsche before,” he continued. “My actual first introduction to Porsche was Bad Boys I, so shout out to Michael Bay—that’s all I really had.”
Caple admitted in a panel during Austin’s South by Southwest festival that the star car of the beloved action film Bad Boys inspired him to make Mirage a classic Porsche in the upcoming film. Mirage is a bit of a rebel himself, and the callback to the classic buddy-cop movie just felt right.
Fortunately, extraterrestrial Autobots won’t be tempted to pull over in any sketchy places to debate the merits of in-car snacking, but this does mean they have bigger nemeses that necessitate transforming into giant robots to handle. It can be more complicated than you’d expect to make a cool Porsche into an Autobot film star, though—in fact, Porsche has a whole team that helps Hollywood studios get just the right car on the silver screen. Here’s how it all comes together.
It starts with a character. Filmmakers have a certain look and vibe in mind when a new Transformer is “cast,” so to speak. Mirage is a bad boy with an attitude, and the film, set in 1994, is meant to be a sequel to Bumblebee. That made Caple think of the 1994 911 Turbo from Bad Boys.
“I was born in the ’80s, and I was a kid in the ’90s… this is the era when I grew up,” Caple explained. “This movie is like a time capsule to me.”
“You get to ’94, and everything started to change—from the wardrobe to the culture to the music to the cars,” he continued. “You start to step away from square-bodied cars and say, ‘hello curves.'”
The “casting” choice of the 964-era 911—a car that was dramatically smoother and more streamlined than any 911 before it—is a callback for the current Transformers series, given that Bad Boys was Michael Bay’s feature-length directorial debut. Yet Mirage has always been portrayed as an upper-crust member of Autobot society, so it makes sense that the Transformers team picked an even rarer 964-generation Porsche to portray him: a 1993 911 Carrera RS 3.8.
“When I was designing the character, it started there,” Caple said. “I talked to Owen [Shively] and the team at Porsche and said… he’s going to be an outlaw. He’s going to be a rebel. Going to be flashy. Very confident, but smooth.”
That’s when Porsche suggested looking into the 911 Carrera RS 3.8.
The Carrera RS 3.8 uses the same wider body shape as Bad Boys‘ 911 Turbo, but it was a homologation specially produced to legalize the Carrera RSR race car with a host of lightweight parts and a hardcore aerodynamic package designed for track domination. Porsche only ever made 55 RS 3.8s, according to Total 911, making it an exceptionally rare ride. In other media and toys in the past, Mirage has been a Ferrari and a Formula 1 car, so an ultra-rare Porsche feels like a solid fit.
While many of us associate the Transformers series with the heavy use of CGI, the filmmakers still need to source real cars to use for many of the shots—and Porsche has a whole team dedicated to helping filmmakers place just the right car into film and television projects.
Owen Shively, from that early ideation conversation Caple mentioned, is the CEO of RTTM Agency, Porsche Cars North America’s exclusive representative when it comes to entertainment partnership requests like this. When Porsche needs someone to arrange a specific car for a new film or TV project, Shively’s agency is where they turn.